Disabilities and rehabilitation

Update from the WHO Task Force on Disability, January 2011

Since 2008, the WHO Task Force on Disability has been working to remove barriers to the participation of people with disabilities in the work of the Organization, and to promote mainstreaming of disability in technical programmes, in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Access audits have been carried out in most of the WHO headquarters and regional office buildings. Based on the findings of these audits, improvements have been made to various buildings to increase their accessibility to people with disabilities. For example, at WHO headquarters, the Executive Board Room is now fully accessible to wheelchair users, and at the WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia disabled access has been taken into account in the design of the building's new entrance in New Delhi. Web sites have also been audited for accessibility to people with visual impairment, and improvements have been made based on these audits. Web developers across WHO have been trained to take access into account when designing websites and Intranet applications.

The WHO Task Force on Disability has also contributed to a new WHO policy on employment and disability which enshrines the principle of reasonable accommodation. This means that necessary and appropriate modification of the WHO policy on employment has been made to encourage applications from people with disabilities, both as staff and interns. WHO staff who sit on selection panels have been trained to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to WHO employment opportunities.

In addition a series of awareness raising events such as lunchtime seminars open to all staff have been held in WHO headquarters and regional offices.

Mainstreaming means that WHO technical programmes take into consideration issues specific to people with disabilities in all aspects of programme design and implementation, and ensure that services and information are accessible to them. For example, work in association with UNAIDS, UNFPA and the WHO Department of Reproductive and Health Research has led to the publication of a policy brief on disability and HIV/AIDS and a guidance note on the sexual and reproductive health of people with disabilities. Currently, a systematic review of prevalence data on violence against people with disabilities and resources addressing the needs of people with disabilities in disasters and emergencies are in preparation by the relevant WHO teams, in association with the WHO Task Force on Disability.

The current priorities for the WHO Task Force on Disability are: first, to work with WHO country offices to ensure that both buildings and publications are as accessible as possible; and second, to make further progress with mainstreaming initiatives, particularly at the regional office level.

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